Sunday, July 25, 2010

She Used To Be a Backseat Bumpkin

Reading A Persistent Muse's blog, I couldn't help but be reminded of my own precious daughter's wandering ways. When Paige was little, she kept a pink and purple backpack with her name embroidered on the front tucked away at the back of her closet with her favorite books, toys and other essentials she thought she might need to make her escape. She toted the bag on her back the first time she ran away to the corner. Standing apprehensively at the doorway, allowing her to spread her wings, I was thankful when she finally turned homeward.

"Where did you think you were going," her father questioned her.

"Anywhere!" Paige replied adamantly, "Away from here!"

Many times she traveled with me as my backseat bumpkin, like the times I took her to Chicago and told her we were in Ireland. We sang Irish songs all the way... "Too-Ra-Loo- Ra-Loo-Ral" and "I'll tell my ma when I get home, the boys won't leave the girls alone!" Then, there were the trips to St. Louis when I told her we were in Italy. I'd take her to the park and over to The Hill for spaghetti. A simple trip across town could be to France!

"Bonjour!" we'd say to people in the park.

"Bonjour," they'd reply. Granted, when she finally took geography in grade school it posed a small problem, but nothing she couldn't get over.

When she was in sixth grade, our family was transferred to Switzerland. Her dreams came true as we toured castles, skied the Alps, climbed the Eiffel Tower and pretended we were Monet in the South of France. I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience, and for me, it was. Soon, we were back home in the United States and she was attending football games and proms, but little did I realize her wandering ways had only been magnified.

In what felt like a blink of an eye, she was packing for freshman year at college. I entered her room and noticed her shelves were practically empty. She dragged every suitcase from the basement and there they were, spread out all over her room, filled to capacity with books, trinkets, and every essential she thought she needed to make her escape.

"WHAT are you thinking?" I questioned.

She turned on a dime with tears in her eyes, "You don't get it, do you? I am NEVER coming back!"

"Of course, you are! Don't be ridiculous. You'll be home all the time and after school's over I'm sure you'll come home and look for work." I retorted.

I could not have been more wrong. Her senior year of college, she applied for the Peace Corps and moved to West Africa within three months of graduation. There, she lived in a hut with no running water and no electricity for over two years. After her stint in the Peace Corps, she traveled to Bali, Angkor Wot, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore with her brother. I thought, now.... now she has seen the world and she'll come home for awhile. I reminisced about the travel games I played with her while she was growing up and realized they were a curse and a blessing. Soon she was engaged, stayed home long enough to plan a wedding and then she was off to California with her husband. Paige had been right, she was never coming back, not to stay anyway, again.

I assure you her wandering ways have not stopped. Paige and her husband traveled to China during the Olympics. After that, they flew to Germany for a rock climbing trip with his brother. Now, almost every weekend she can be found carrying an even larger backpack hiking or rock climbing in the mountains outside of Los Angeles or Las Vegas. This August, she and her husband are meeting her brother at Glacier National Park to hike for eight days.

I often wonder if Paige had a sixth sense about the path her life was going to take. I question if our travel games caused her wanderlust and if I would have changed them if only I had known. Yet, when I think of that little four year old girl standing on the corner with her pink and purple backpack, I know in my heart she had a plan and she stuck to it.

Paige called me last week from California. She's a little homesick and wants to come back the 2nd weekend of August. So, I will be waiting apprehensively in my doorway once again, thankful for the moment she walks up my driveway and turns down the sidewalk, homeward.


  1. This is a sweet post that captures your daughter's spirit. The last line gave me a chill.

  2. You just wait til your baby grows up!! They have a path all their own and we basically have no control over it... thus is the way of the world.

  3. an adventurous daughter is the product of an AMAZING mom - she is so the mirror of your own adventurous soul!

  4. Thanks for the love Momma :) I'm so excited to see you soon! You'll have to post again after the Glacier trip - but tell it from Zach's perspective... I am already dying laughing just thinking about it.

    ... and I DO come home...sometimes.

  5. Zach is so funny, I don't know if I can do him justice, but I thought the same thing! I will have to interview both of you before I write it! LOL

    Cannot wait to see you! xoxo

  6. You raised a wanderer.
    An explorer. How proud you must be.

  7. She sounds like someone I would like to know. I agree with KW and Elsiee....good job Mom!

  8. This post gives me goosebumps. Kudos to you for allowing your daughter to be herself, and never trying to talk "sense" into her or any other crap.
    You were so brilliant to allow her to chase down her dreams, not all daughters are as fortunate.

  9. I'm still wondering how she could afford to tote those books around the globe!

    I think it's wonderful your daughter had a chance to explore while she was still young and able to recover quickly. It's not always so easy on an older body ... ugh!

  10. This post also makes me a little teary eyed. I am so proud of Paigie but oh, how I wish we all lived closer together.

  11. KrippledWarrior, I don't think I had any choice in the matter. Her path was lain out when she entered my life.

    Gillian, I don't think I allowed anything, frankly. Honestly, I tried to stop her from going to Africa. I cried, I threw fits, I tried to make her feel guilty!! None of it worked! LOL

    Kobico, she made $3,000 a year while in the Peace Corps. That is the money that funded the trip to Asia. Her father and older brother were living in Singapore at that time. The company they worked for, paid for my son to get to Singapore, which was the big expense. Their dad paid the rest.

    Thanks to all of you who congratulated me on my parenting skills. Again, I reiterate, basically I had no say! LOL

    Heather, you are the best friend a daughter could have! xoxo

  12. This is beautiful. I can relate to this completely. My daughter and her best friend ran away when they were 4. They packed the most important things -- one My Little Pony a piece and some cookies -- and went out the back door of the friend's home, through the back yard and down the fence line to their riding teacher's home. She called us and we let them live their fantasy for a while.

    My daughter's online name has been NomadLisa for a long time. She just booked her flight for a vacation in Peru last week. But she will be "home" for Christmas.

  13. As the mother of a daughter, I know that feeling when they walk out that door after high school graduation! But the wanderlust not so much so, as luckily for me she has never strayed far (though she never lived at home again) - she is a homebody. I've often wondered what makes some people have that burning desire to be a super-achiever of any kind, an athlete or a world traveler, whatever. The old nature or nurture question, I guess. What a great post, and I look forward to hearing about your visit! Connecting with a child after a long absence - priceless.

  14. She sounds like my niece, who, I think, was born with the travel bug. It's all good, as long as they come back, right?

    Mine are still little, and I know their path will be their own, as much as I'd like them to say here forever!

  15. I really enjoyed your article about your daughter's development. I too am trying to raise global children. We are living abroad currently and so our children have had a opportunity to experience many different cultures and travel at an early age. Our oldest is just beginning to explore colleges but already knows she want to study overseas at some point. My goal (but also my fear) is they will launch on their own worldwide adventures some day and never look back. Thank you for sharing.

  16. MAWB, my little one is just 9 months and I already worry about the future. But hey, like you say, they have a path of they own, created for them as they entered life. "Your children are not your children./They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself./They come through you but not from you,/And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. " (/"The Prophet", K. Gibran)


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